Sarah Dorchak/the Gauntlet

Debate: Banning shark fin soup in Calgary

For the ban

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When discussing the implications of Calgary city council banning the possession of shark fins, it is vital to first look at the barbaric process known as ‘finning.’ When fishermen are hunting for valuable shark fins, they want to optimize the amount of space on their boats. To do this, they store only sharks’ fins, slicing them off with a hot knife and throwing the mutilated predator back into the ocean. The shark, unable to move, will either suffocate or be eaten. This is the process the ban on shark fins is fighting against — one of the most cruel and inefficient methods of hunting done today.

Besides the clear ethical issues raised by shark fin fishing, the practice also raises pressing ecological concerns. Sharks are apex predators, which means that they are on the top of the food chain. When animals like these are killed by humans, it is incredibly easy to throw ecosystems out of balance and just as easy to severely threaten these predators. Many species of shark are rapidly becoming endangered because of shark fin fishing, threatening the balance of our already weakened oceans.

The practice of consuming shark fin soup is becoming more taboo as people are made aware of the issues surrounding this controversial food. Even in China, where shark fin soup is considered a traditional dish meant to symbolize wealth, people are increasingly condemning the practice of finning. Cities around the world are beginning to take steps to ban the possession of shark fins, including Toronto and other cities in Ontario.

So when taking all of this into account, how could city council have possibly voted down this legislation? Rejecting the bylaw would have sent just as strong a message as approving it did and would have sparked a chain of reactions condemning the city’s decision. It would have added to the negative public image Calgary has been attempting to shed for years and would have resulted in scores of angry citizens.

Some may argue that it is not the city’s place to enact such a ban, or that changes like this should be made at a provincial or federal level. However, with the current Alberta and Canadian governments, it would be highly unlikely that either would do much to resolve an environmental issue. Sometimes change has to start on a smaller scale, gaining momentum and traction before being introduced to the world at large. By passing a bylaw banning the possession of shark fins, Calgary has sent a powerful message, one that the entire world will hear.